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Vassar Celebrates Black HistoryVassar Celebrates Black History Month

The Black History Month observance began as “Negro History Week” in 1926 and ALANA Center Director Kevin Collins says since then, “it has been a necessary and sacred time of reflection on the contributions, achievements, and experiences of black people in the American context.”

From left: At Vassar in February, acclaimed trumpeter Etienne Charles; Vassar Adjunct Artist in Music Dr. Ashley J. Jackson; and Sherrilyn Ifill ’84, President and Director-Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Photos: From left: Laura Ferreira; courtesy of the subject; courtesy of the NAACP-LDF

For decades, black men and women have played important roles at Vassar and beyond. As we celebrate Black History Month, we are highlighting some of those achievements and milestones, as well as some events that will take place on campus over the next 28 days.

  • On February 1, the Africana Studies Department will celebrate its 50th year with an evening of dance, spoken word, and live music, starting at 6:00 pm in Kenyon Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
  • This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Kendrick House, a residence for black students that served as Vassar’s Afro-American Cultural Center from 1969 to 1974.
  • The Music Department will host two concerts in conjunction with the observance this month. On February 15 at 8:00 pm, acclaimed trumpeter Etienne Charles will be featured in the performance “Creole Soul.” On February 16 at 8:00 pm, Dr. Ashley J. Jackson, Vassar Adjunct Artist in Music, will present “Miss Black America,” an original program that explores the impact of black women on the advancement and uplift of the African American community using original text, pre-recorded material, and live performances.
  • On February 22, the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College (AAVC) will present its annual Spirit of Vassar Award to Sherrilyn Ifill ’84, President and Director-Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Sherrilyn will also discuss key civil rights issues in a talk at the Martel Theater at 4 pm. The event is free and open to the public.
  • On February 28, the ALANA (African American/Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native American) Center will host a “Black History Month Closing Ceremony” from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. in the Villard Room.
  • Also on February 28, an exhibit will open in the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center focusing on “Quiet As It’s Kept: Passing Subjects, Contested Identities,” the subject of a three-day conference on race and gender identity to be held April 5, 6 and 7.
  • On March 1, the Black Students’ Union will host its annual Black Solidarity Dinner from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

ALANA Center Director Collins urges everyone in the Vassar community to look for more information on the events and to take part. “It is critical that we use this month, in particular, to hold up and celebrate the greatness of our past and present, all the while recognizing the struggles and obstacles we have yet to overcome,” he says. “It is essential, especially in this current climate, to do so with some joy, self-reflection, and honesty so as to not only remember our collective past but move forward into an enlightened and more equitable future.”